Elevate Aviation lands in N.L., encouraging women to pursue careers in the sky

The number of women in aviation is small, but Elevate Aviation hopes to change that.

Globally, just 5% of pilots are women, says International Society of Women Airline Pilots

A group of people gathered together to stand in front of a helicopter.
Ashleigh Pinsent says the Elevate Aviation event in Goose Bay was the largest of the tour. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A national organization promoting gender diversity in the skies touched down in Newfoundland and Labrador this week in hopes of inspiring women to seek out careers in aviation.

Elevate Aviation held events in St. John's on Tuesday and in Goose Bay on Thursday, showing women the control towers and hangars at the St. John's International Airport and at 5 Wing Goose Bay, and introducing them to women who work in the industry.

"I think there's still an understanding [among] women and young girls that aviation is not as open for them as it is for males," said Kim Winsor, a third-generation pilot.

Pilot Kim Winsor talks to CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler. (John Pike/CBC)

The International Society of Women Airline Pilots reports that, globally, around five per cent of all pilots are women.

"I'm not going to lie; there's always obstacles in the way of anything, but you just push those obstacles," Winsor said. "And what I like to say to young girls when I'm talking to them that there is no mountain too high."

Participants heard from people who work as pilots, air traffic controllers, plane mechanics and engineers, dispatch crew and flight attendants.

In the afternoon, they got tours of the air traffic control tower and the hangar.

"We inspired a few this week for sure," she said.

Huge crowd for Goose Bay event

The event in Goose Bay was the biggest of the entire tour, with 82 women showing up at 5 Wing Goose Bay to check out the helicopters and meet women in the industry.

"Now is the time to get into it," said Ashleigh Pinsent, who works as an air-traffic controller in Gander and volunteers with Elevate.

Pinsent is an air traffic controller in Gander. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

According to numbers reported by the Ottawa Citizen, there are plenty of opportunities: Canada will need 7,300 new pilots by 2025, and Canada should be producing 300 more pilots each year than it currently is to meet the demand for air travel, according to a report released last year by the Canada Council for Aviation and Aerospace.

She said a number of young woman approached Elevate volunteers after the event to say they're interested in getting into the field.

Kayla Torarak, who says she is the only female first officer at Air Borealis, said it was fantastic to be a part of the Elevate event.

"It's great to inspire another generation to go to flight school and broaden their horizons," she said. "It's quite a different career. You get to see many different places and things and your day is different every day."

Kayla Torarak says she is the only female first officer at Air Borealis. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

'I can't believe I get paid for it'

Winsor echoes those sentiments.

Both her her father and grandfather were pilots. Growing up, she says, "there was always an airplane around to go flying."

She didn't originally want to be a pilot, but once she got up in the air, she knew she'd found her career.

"I can't believe I get paid for it," she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Ashley Brauweiler and Jacob Barker